In the race to independence via the First Republic that lasted between 1960 and 1966, the Igbos, through their legendary late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, popularly known as Zik, profoundly provided the mechanism through which Nigeria attained independence. Before the madness came calling in 1966, just take a look at what the central government of Nigeria looked like.
Between 1963 and 1966, the president of Nigeria, though in ceremonial capacity, was Igbo, Zik. Within that period, the president of the senate was Nwafor Orizu. And between 1959 and 1960, the speaker of the federal house of representatives was Jaja Wachuku, Igbo. Raymond Njoku was the minister of communications, trade was K.O. Mbadiwe.
In fact, the story of Wachuku must be retold here to reflect the industry, ingenuity, nationalism and patriotism of Ndigbo in the journey to independence. As the first indigenous speaker, he replaced Sir Frederic Metcalfe of Britain. Wachuku was privileged to have received the Instrument of Independence also known as Freedom Charter, on October 1, 1960, from Princess Alexandra of Kenth – Elizabeth 11.
According to a report, it was during this period and his years as first Nigerian foreign affairs minister that Wachuku forged the reputed friendship that he had with three presidents of America namely Dwight D.
Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B.Johnson. He used these contacts to grow and develop the country’s foreign missions. Also, as the first permanent representative of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York as well as minister of economic development, he hoisted Nigeria’s flag as the 99 member of UNO on October 7, 1960 and he played a leading and heroic role to Nigeria becoming the 58 member state of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO on November 14, 1960. On that note, he was elected as first African chairman of a United Nations Conciliation Commission – the commission to Congo in 1961 and under his supervision the Nigerian army and Nigeria police forces made their glorious and remarkable debut at the UNO peace keeping under the direction World Organization.
One great Igbo who, even in death, has yet to receive well deserved encomiums for his extraordinary feats in the academia, is the late Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike. Dike transformed what used to be University College Ibadan to an internationally acclaimed university. In other words, he was the first Nigerian vice chancellor. As a report said, he was the founder of the Ibadan School that dominated the writing of the History of Nigeria until the 1970s. He is credited with “having played the leading role in creating a generation of African historians who could interpret their own history without being influenced by Eurocentric approaches. Equally, Dike, was the man who moved for the establishment of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Lagos.
As Dike held forte in Ibadan, so also did Professor Eni Njoku work assiduously to build University of Lagos as a global brand for academic development. Before that, Njoku was appointed the chairman, Electricity Corporation of Nigeria which later metamorphosed as NEPA and PHCN before it was ultimately unbundled.
The case here is that after 1966, Nigeria turned against Ndigbo. A most devastating civil war was declared against Ndigbo in which about two million people died. In the subsequent years, all the successive administrations, in one way or the day, have been excluding the Igbo. Take the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari as a practical example. There are 14 security chiefs in the country right now. Out of the 14, 12 are from the North, one each from the West and South – South but none from the South East. Even at that, it goes to say that the Buhari administration is building railway lines across all the zones except in the South East. This was in compensation to the three gas plants now under construction in Abuja, Kano and Kaduna – all in the North.
For the first time in democratic Nigeria, no Igbo ward is vice president, senate president, deputy senate president, speaker, deputy speaker and so on and so forth. A visit to the much advertised Akanu Ibiam International Airport will reveal that nothing much has actually happened in terms of bringing the facility named after one of the noblest Nigerians who ever lived, to international standard. Almost everything there is not in any way close to what can be described as international.
Against this insulting and assaulting background, the chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai, in a bravado show of power, warned the South East governors that he would declare a state of emergency if the IPOB group is involved in the death of any security agent in the region. This is sickening. The IPOB, though a separatist group, has never carried any stick. They have never been found with a machete. No ammunition has ever been traced to IPOB. Each time IPOB and police are involved in skirmishes, the victims as well the casualties are usually tilted against the Biafra agitators. So, why the threat by the army head?
Looking at the scenario, it is not surprising that Ndigbo (particularly the youths) that were in the forefront for the decolonization of Nigeria, invested heavily for her growth and development and who also worked for her unity, are now calling for her disintegration. Why? It is simple. Nigeria of today lacks equity, fairness and justice. Nigeria of today does not factor in the interest of Ndigbo into the national scheme of things.